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Weyward - Emilia Hart

Weyward - Emilia Hart

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Victoria recommends! I am a Weyward, and wild inside.

2019: Under cover of darkness, Kate flees London for ramshackle Weyward Cottage, inherited from a great aunt she barely remembers. With its tumbling ivy and overgrown garden, the cottage is worlds away from the abusive partner who tormented Kate. But she begins to suspect that her great aunt had a secret. One that lurks in the bones of the cottage, hidden ever since the witch-hunts of the 17th century.

1619: Altha is awaiting trial for the murder of a local farmer who was stampeded to death by his herd. As a girl, Altha’s mother taught her their magic, a kind not rooted in spell casting but in a deep knowledge of the natural world. But unusual women have always been deemed dangerous, and as the evidence for witchcraft is set out against Altha, she knows it will take all of her powers to maintain her freedom.

1942: As World War II rages, Violet is trapped in her family's grand, crumbling estate. Straitjacketed by societal convention, she longs for the robust education her brother receives––and for her mother, long deceased, who was rumored to have gone mad before her death. The only traces Violet has of her are a locket bearing the initial W and the word weyward scratched into the baseboard of her bedroom.

Weaving together the stories of three extraordinary women across five centuries, Emilia Hart's Weyward is an enthralling novel of female resilience and the transformative power of the natural world.

By Emilia Hart. Hardcover. 336 pages. Published by St. Martin's Press, 2023.

Victoria's thoughts: A nuanced, masterfully woven debut exploring the way women survive--and sometimes even thrive--outside of the patriarchy. Spanning multiple centuries through the voices of three women sharing a family line, this lovely novel is soft-hearted and tender, but reminds us that tenderness has teeth. Hart successfully blends historical fiction with speculative elements, and though I would argue this supernatural addition may not even be necessary, it does add an extra sparkle and gleam to the storytelling.

Most of us do not need a fictional book to tell us how terrible men have been to women and other people of marginalized genders for most of history, and that almost made me not pick this one up at all, honestly. However, what I enjoyed the most about this book was that the three main characters did not fall into the all-too-familiar category of badass girl bosses tearing down the patriarchy. Instead, these women suffered, and yet they did not let that suffering make them hard. They carved out soft places full of jeweled insects and crystalline flowers where it was safe to be tender, to be gentle. I think that is Hart's greatest triumph here--that we do not have to become like men to survive.

Content warnings: sexual assault, incest, abusive relationships, pregnancy, abortion.